The Beatrix Potter Collection (2008)

The Beatrix Potter Collection (3 DVD set) was just released for sale on 2/12. Ligia and I bought the set just a few days ago, and we’re very happy that we did it. The series was done very well by the BBC. Each DVD contains three animated stories, and each story has a live action introduction filmed in an idyllic English country setting. Some of the live action introductions do repeat, and we found that to be a bit annoying. It would have been ideal if a different intro was filmed for each cartoon, or if only intro was present per DVD, to keep things different.

We love the animation because it looks just like watercolor book drawings that have come to life. The lines are well defined, the colors are wonderfully chosen, and the sound effects almost too real. The movement of the characters is a bit awkward, but I like it because it reminds me once again of their book drawing origin. I can’t say it enough, so I’ll say it again: watching the DVDs is just like seeing the book drawings come to life.

The stories are wonderfully plotted and contain great lessons for the little ones. It’s a pleasure to watch and follow along with the characters. The story-telling is relaxing but won’t put you to sleep. It’s just the right tempo. Some of the stories are a little scary, like that of Pigling Bland or Samuel Whiskers, but the scary scenes are only alluded to, not shown. Still, it’s effective enough to send chills down your spine, so you might want to pick and choose which stories you show to your children based on their age and level of understanding.

Here is what’s included in the set (images of each DVD cover are included below):

  1. The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends
    1. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny
    2. The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies and Mrs. Tittlemouse
    3. The Tale of Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddle-Duck
  2. The Tale of Pigling Bland and Other Stories
    1. The Tale of Pigling Bland
    2. The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or the Roly-Poly Pudding
    3. The Tailor of Gloucester
  3. The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Mr. Jeremy Fisher and Other Stories
    1. The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Mr. Jeremy Fisher
    2. The Tale of Mr. Tod: The Further Adventures of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny
    3. The Tale of Two Bad Mice and Johnny Town-Mouse

I’m trying to think what other cartoons I can compare them to, and their closest “relative” is probably Little Bear, which is a series about a bear family living in an American forest. The drawing style and movement of the characters is similar, thought the colors aren’t pastels in Little Bear.

I definitely recommend these cartoons. They’re great for children, but you don’t need to be of that age to enjoy them. Ligia and I both found them enjoyable.

Buy The Beatrix Potter Collection

The Tale of Pigling Bland and Other Stories


Digitizing my VHS library

Over the past few months, whenever I get some free time, I stick in an old VHS tape into my trusty Samsung SV5000W VCR, and using my Plextor ConvertX PVR (PX-TV402U), I digitize it. I’m really mostly interested in my library of Disney movies (feature-length animation). I have tapes from as early as 1992, and those poor things are in dire need of resuscitation. The colors are fading fast, there’s static when I watch them, and even their plastic cases have started to show signs of wear and tear, even though the only thing they’ve been doing all this time is sitting in my bookcase.

I realize I could easily purchase the DVDs, and for some of the movies, I did just that. I have the special edition Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for example. But it’s kind of nice to save my old VHS tapes. I have very fond memories of my Disney movies. When I started to buy them, my parents and I had just come to the States from what used to be communist Romania. That meant no access to Disney cartoons unless someone had a badly dubbed bootleg copy of some movie. We got 10 minutes or less of cartoons on Sunday afternoons around 1 pm, and that was that. If we were lucky, we got a Tom and Jerry short. If we weren’t, we got some half-baked French or Romanian cartoon, mostly stick animation. Yuck!

When I came to the States in 1991, I was starved for good cartoons. Unfortunately, we were also starving. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but when you start from scratch, you don’t have a lot of spare cash. My parents had a hard time making ends meet in those first few years. So when I wanted to get my first Disney movie in 1992, that was a big deal. Twenty-five dollars is a lot of money to spend when you’re making minimum wage. As I started working in high school, I’d scrimp and save to have enough to buy my Disney movies. My my memories of these tapes are fond indeed. I’d wait months to be able to get one, and when I did get it, I enjoyed it very, very much — and I still do.

So here I am, dubbing my tapes to digital format. As I watch them again, bygone times come to mind. The nice experiences were all the nicer because they were in scarce supply. Digitizing my movies puts them and those times in cryogenic suspension, so to speak. They remain, in their current, fuzzy state, for as long as I keep them, always a memory of those first, few, rough years in the States.


Animation is hard work!

A wonderful video from the late 1930s, a newsreel, has been posted to YouTube. It depicts Fleischer studios in action, making a Popeye cartoon. In this age of computer animation, when things work differently, it’s a real treat to see animators in action, drawing for a change. Golly, cartoons were sure hard to make! We, as spectators, can’t possibly imagine the incredible amount of work that goes on to produce a 7 or 8 minute cartoon, but this video does a pretty good job of setting us straight on that subject. This is why old cartoons are still relevant. The sheer amount of work it took to make them qualifies them as works of art. We should do our best to preserve them and share them with generations to come.

[via Cartoon Brew]

How To

ABC’s of Hand Tools

In 1946, Disney made an industrial short for General Motors called “ABC’s of Hand Tools”. While the whereabouts of that movie, which must have been entertaining, are unknown, the handbook is still with us. Cartoon Brew has the details in this post, along with a link to a PDF of that book. This is funny stuff, and still relevant!

Updated 12/10/09: It’s YouTube to the rescue, thank goodness! Found the video, in two parts, and embedded them below. Enjoy!

Watch Part 1 on YouTube

Watch Part 2 on YouTube


Little Swee' Pea

Today on Refrederator: Little Swee’ Pea. A trademark of the Zukor cartoons were the multi-layered backgrounds that moved at different speeds, creating the impression of 3-dimensionality. Some of the Popeye cartoons use them, this one included, and all of the Betty Boop cartoons feature them as a mainstay. Have a look and see for yourselves!


Disney recycled animation frames

Cartoon Brew has a post linking to a Russian site, where they do side by side comparisons of frames, to show you how often Disney animators reused animation sequences. The site is in Russian, but the photos are readily understandable, so I encourage you to visit it. This is pretty interesting. I hadn’t known about it, but it makes sense. Hand animation is very hard and tedious work, and if one can use shortcuts without taking away from the viewer’s enjoyment, why not? Here’s the link.


Foney Fables

Today on Refrederator: “Foney Fables” 🙂 This is classic cartoon satire of the beautiful fables of youth. Many of these were made in the 40’s. A really nice bonus: can you recognize the voice of the boy who cries wolf? How about the voice of the duck that lays the golden eggs? Hint: think Looney Tunes! Here is the link.


Attack of the viral campaign ads

From Wired News: “It’s the hottest new trend in political advertising: Lampoon your opponent in an online cartoon, and hope it goes viral. By Steve Friess.”

Problem is, we tend to be less critical of critical cartoon ads… When an opponent muckrakes another in a real ad, we think he’s a schmuck. But when he does it in a cartoon, we think it’s cute, yet the same message is gotten across. Yes, cartoon ads are more powerful, and in that sense, more dangerous than real ads. This is a problem! Here is the link.